This post was first published on Angie’s original site on May 17, 2013. It is being republished here with minor updates.
My husband works in international development. We used to live in West Africa in support of that career. Even though we have moved back to the US, he still travels frequently to Africa. All those trips give us ample opportunity, for better or worse, to think about our former life. When we chat about it, I often realize “Plan B” is actually an important part of life’s journey and a very familiar topic to everyone struggling with autoimmune disease.
So first, let’s talk about “Plan A.” I don’t know about you, but to be perfectly honest, I never had a well mapped out Plan A for my life. I had some broad ideas though. I wanted to find a soul mate. I wanted to have a few kids. I wanted to find my profession, by exploring and studying a wide range of unrelated interests. (Focus is so hard! At one point I even considered a program through the global shipping giant, Maersk. I think logistics is that interesting.) And finally, I wanted to travel. Everywhere.
I know, I know. That’s such a vague “plan.” It’s like saying you want to make a salad and it requires some “botanical material” and some “liquid.” It mostly worked though. After some trial and error, I did meet my soul mate. I didn’t have a few kids. I had only one, but she was the little girl I had wanted. And my professional ambitions came together, but not at all in the way I thought they would.
So what about the travel? At last count, I’ve been to 13 foreign countries. I lived in three of those countries, once in a developed nation and twice in undeveloped nations. I had the pleasure of visiting all but four of those foreign destinations, with my daughter in tow. I had thought I would live overseas for at least 6-10 years and then just keep hopping around after that point. Here’s the thing though, autoimmune disease stopped me in my globe-trotting tracks. Illness even made some of my time aboard much more difficult than it would have otherwise been. I used to chat with other women adjusting to new cultures, especially in the developing world, and I would think to myself, “This is tough for everyone to make this leap, but I really seem to have some unusually bad days. What is my issue?”
I didn’t know it at the time, but autoimmune disease was the issue. I tried to hang on to Plan A. Like really hang on. It wasn’t until my third medical evacuation that I decided I absolutely had to go back to the US and stay put long enough to recover. I did not want to switch gears on that dream. Sometimes when my husband leaves for a trip, it breaks both our hearts.
My autoimmune struggle disrupted my plans for the size of my family and my plans for finding a profession. Hardest of all for me to accept, it disrupted my plans for travel. All those disruptions could have totally derailed me, but after doing the normal work of processing those losses for myself, I focused on the portions of Plan A that I was able to achieve and then I got to work hammering out possible Plan B’s.
Let me tell you about the Plan B I settled on. I am deepening my already awesome marriage to my soul mate. (BTW, we have “in sickness and in health” nailed.) I am doing the best possible job I can parenting my incredible one and only daughter. And finally, I have taken all the time I would have spent traveling and I’m using it to learn everything I can about healing autoimmune disease through nutrition and lifestyle approaches and I’m spreading the word. You see what I did there? I tricked illness by making it my passion.
Autoimmune disease was never part of my plan, but learning how to be versatile enough to roll with the punches was a happy unintended consequence. Adapting my dreams to better match my realities… that is my Plan B.
Tell me, have there been portions of your Plan A that you had to let go of or change? What does your Plan B look like?